Speaking the Truth, Patiently

Paul calls us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and also says “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). How can leaders speak the truth patiently? Patience simply means to accept delays without becoming angry or annoyed. So, speaking the truth patiently requires leaders to think carefully about the timing of their words. They acknowledge that sometimes speaking the truth in love requires waiting or taking more time than they might want to take.

Speaking the truth patiently requires balance.

Truth needs to be expressed, but patience requires a willingness to wait. The two must be balanced to speak truth in love. Some leaders may be so “patient” that they never actually speak the truth!

More often, leaders may want to just get the truth out too quickly. They quote Jesus’ words, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).And they reason, “The sooner this person knows the truth, the better!” But speaking truth with patience requires balance. Servant leaders learn that they need to wait for the right time to speak the truth.

Speaking truth with patience may mean waiting until the person is ready for the truth. There may be a situation that requires waiting for a person to change so they are open to hear the truth. Sometimes speaking the truth in the presence of other persons may bring shame to the person instead of encouraging change. Servant leaders recognize that without patience, truth will not “set you free.” They are willing to wait for the right time to speak the truth. They recognize that love for the person is as important as love for the truth.

Speaking the truth patiently reveals maturity.

Immature leaders rush to speak the truth with little thought to timing. Truth often seems more urgent to proclaim than it really is. As leaders mature, they allow the fruit of patience to develop in their lives and sometimes choose to wait to speak the truth. They allow time for God to shape their own heart which may reveal a wrong motive. Mature leaders realize that not everyone is ready for truth at the same time and they are willing to wait with patience. Servant leaders wait for the right time, the right context, and the right motive.

Speaking the truth patiently reflects Jesus.

Jesus, a master leader, was able to wait for the right time to speak truth. He knew that Peter would deny him and spoke that truth to Peter in the upper room during the Passover meal (Luke 22:34). Later, Jesus was arrested, and Peter followed him to the courtyard of the High Priest where he denied knowing Jesus three times.

60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 6 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

As Peter finished his third betrayal, Jesus turns and looks at Peter. What was the truth in this situation? Peter had failed and betrayed His Lord. Many leaders would quickly speak the truth, “I told you that you would fail!”

But what does Jesus say? Nothing! Jesus was patient. He knew that this was not the right time to speak the truth. Peter needed time to weep and reflect on his actions.

Later, Jesus would come back to Peter and gently restore him by asking three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Then He called Peter to take care of “my sheep” (John 21:15-19). There was a time for truth, but Jesus spoke it only after waiting patiently.

Like Jesus, servant leaders learn to speak truth…patiently!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth” or to be “patient”? What is the result in my leadership?
  • When have I spoken truth, but not with patience? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? What would have been a better time to speak truth?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus waited patiently to speak the truth? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.